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November 8, 2008
AUSTIN, Texas - Texas safety Earl Thomas buried himself in the Disney Channel this week. Receiver Quan Cosby's back was buried beneath acupuncture needles. Colt McCoy and Cosby discussed the Baylor game plan from neighboring ice tubs in the training room. And senior cornerback Ryan Palmer was doing his best to pick up the spirits of his teammates after the most gut-wrenching loss of his career.
"I've been around here for five years, and I've never seen anything like that," Palmer said. "It was painful."
No one in the Texas locker room wanted to speculate where Saturday's game against Baylor might have gone if Palmer hadn't intercepted a deflected Robert Griffin pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown after Baylor had tied the game 14-14 in the second quarter.
Palmer's interception was just what a teetering No. 5 Texas team needed to blow the game open en route to a 45-21 victory and start the heeling from last week's 39-33 loss at Texas Tech.
"You want to get the bad taste out of your mouth after a loss," Mack Brown said, his left ear bloodied during the game by a player running out of bounds in the first half. "Especially when you were No. 1 in the country and had everything riding on it and were beaten in the last second of the game.
"So more than anything else, I felt bad Monday. I know the kids did. We had to come back and fight and compete."
Texas scored on its first two possessions - drives of 65 and 70 yards. Foswhitt Whittaker started his first game at running back, finishing with 15 carries for 77 yards (5.1 ypc). Cosby, who underwent treatment all week on his back for an injury that knocked him out of the Tech game in the first half, had four catches on those drives - including a 35-yard TD grab that put Texas ahead 7-0.
"I did it all - acupuncture, digging, massage," said Cosby, who had eight catches for 111 yards and two scores. "It usually started at 7 a.m. until I had class at 11. Go to class, then start at 1:30 until practice and then start it again. Colt and I were talking about Baylor as we were in the training room screaming in pain. It's amazing what Brett Favre did considering how banged up we get."
Baylor tied the game at 14 with a five-play, 96-yard drive aided by a 34-yard run from Kendall Wright and capped by a 55-yard pass to Wright.
An uneasy feeling settled over Royal-Memorial Stadium after Hunter Lawrence missed the first of two field-goal attempts on the day - this one from 44 yards wide right - on UT's next possession.
But Palmer wiped away any fears of a second straight week of despair by closing hard on a bubble screen pass that went off the hands of Wright straight to Palmer, who darted 22 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
"I released and the guy dropped the ball and I could see it coming," Palmer said. "Pot of gold."
Texas' defense stiffened on Baylor' next drive, and the Longhorns went right down the field for a five-play, 73-yard drive capped by Cosby's second touchdown of the day - a 26-yarder that put Texas up 28-14. Texas increased its lead to 45-14 before Baylor's Jay Finley scored on a 40-yard TD run in garbage time with 4:58 left.
"The first half we didn't play well," said McCoy, who finished 26 of 37 passing for 300 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. "The second half we were more physical, dominated and put the game away."
In addition to Whittaker's 77 yards rushing, Vondrell McGee had 10 carries for 55 yards (5.5 ypc) as the Longhorns totaled 194 yards on the ground in 47 carries (4.1 ypc).
"I feel like I'm getting better at blitz pickup but I still have a lot of work to do in that area," Whittaker said. "Last week against Tech, we didn't get to do as much in the run game as we wanted to. So the coaches had us come out on Tuesday and just pound the run, make sure we get the O-line steps right, the receiver blocking right and the running backs flowing."
While Texas' defense held Baylor to less than 100 yards passing (71), this game was about restoring confidence - especially among young players like Gideon, Curtis Brown and Thomas.
"All three of the guys who had the tough plays at the end of last week's game all played well today," Brown said.
Gideon helped break up a deep pass in the end zone in the first quarter. Curtis Brown was flagged for pass interference, but also had a quarterback hurry. Thomas had five tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Baylor did most of its offensive damage with Robert Griffin's legs - 101 of Baylor's 201 yards rushing came from Griffin. Next weekend, Kansas will test Texas' secondary with quarterback Todd Reesing and receivers Dezmon Briscoe, Dexton Fields and Kerry Meier. "As a team we're gelling even more even though we had a hard loss last week," Palmer said. "This win got us back on track. We needed it. Now we've got to get to Kansas."
Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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